Think you have some groundbreaking ideas in the field of space exploration? Well, your expertise might come in handy, as NASA has just announced that they are opening up the proverbial floor for people to share their ideas on traveling to and exploring the mysterious, icy world of Europa.
Europa is one of Jupiter's 50 some moons, and it happens to be one of the four largest Galilean moons. Out of Io, Callisto, and Ganymede (its three primary siblings), astronomers believe that Europa holds the most promise for extraterrestrial life-forms. Namely, this is because of the fact that Europa is believed to have a huge subsurface quantity of water (perhaps more than all of Earth's water combined). That opens up a line of dialog about the viability of exploring this breathtaking alien world
The problem is that Europa can be found more than 5.2 AU (484 million miles/778 million km) from the Sun...not exactly prime sunbathing territory, right? As a result of its distance from the Sun, its incredibly cold, coming in with a temperature of just 110 K (−160 °C; −260 °F) . Therefore, it's safe to say that Europa is little more than an over-sized snowball; however, various phenomena (like tidal stresses) shuffle everything up and keep things moving along underneath the surface of the moon, which means that the water lurking deep below its surface could very well be in liquid form.
We just don't know how far the ice reaches, thus it's difficult to envision exploring Europa without having some plan in place to drill beyond (potentially) super-thick ice
WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR:
Not just any proposal will do. They need something that can successful carry out several missions. Here are the type of things they hope to achieve:
- Characterize the extent of the ocean and its relation to the deeper interior
- Characterize the ice shell and any subsurface water, including their heterogeneity, and the nature of surface-ice-ocean exchange
- Determine global surface, compositions and chemistry, especially as related to habitability
- Understand the formation of surface features, including sites of recent or current activity, identify and characterize candidate sites for future detailed exploration
- Understand Europa's space environment and interaction with the magnetosphere
Still interested? See how you can learn how to submit your own ideas here.